Monday, May 30, 2011

Writing gigs - the visible and the unseen

Not even June and it's unlikely I'll have any more drama on TV this year - one ep of Doctors will probably be my lot for 2011. I guess my five eps of Nine and the Neurons will pop up on CBeebies at some point, be interesting to see them on screen. Anything else won't surface until 2012, due to long lead times required for TV drama.

The nature of a freelance writing career is some work is visible, a lot of it happens behind closed doors and goes unseen. For example, I was on commissioned jobs non-stop from September 2011 to this February. That included my 3rd Doctors ep, 60,000 words for computer game Fate of the World, a script for Fantomen comic, and my five Nina eps.

The unseen writing included five story pitches for a popular CBeebies CGI show; hustling a try-out on a continuing drama series; revising a short film script for a new director; taking part in a Write Foot Forward coaching scheme; teaching postgrad creative writing 2.5 days a week; and devising new story pitches for Doctors.

Aside from the teaching, none of those unseen jobs has brought in a penny so far. Some will, some might, some won't. That cliche about having to speculate to accumulate? It's definitely true freelance writers. You have to keep generating new ideas, new pitches, new contacts, new stories. You have to take responsibility for all of that.

Having an agent opens doors, gets you opportunities that might otherwise never arise - but it's you, your writing, what you do with those opportunities that can determine success or failure. If you want to be a professional writer, writing isn't enough - you have to be professional. You have to make things happen, otherwise nothing does.

The last three months have been a mix of visible and unseen writing. I revised The Complete Inspector Morse for a new edition due out in the autumn. Got a CBeebies pitch shot down, but was already busy developing a new one. [Never wait for rejection to start in on a fresh idea. Better to start while hopeful than while licking wounds.]

The big project for March and April was my new calling card script, THE SPECIALS. It's my sample for the BBC Writers' Academy. The first ten pages were good enough to get me longlisted [along with 156 others], time will tell if the whole script to propel me to the workshops. Am already planning the next draft, based on feedback from elsewhere.

Getting into the academy is a longshot. Even after making the longlist, the odds are still 20-1 against. But I'm busy making arrangements to be ready if the call comes. That means relocating to London for three months in September. Walking away from everything and everyone else in my life for the duration. Total focus, no distractions.

It's a daunting prospect, but I've done it before. I emigrated to the UK with one suticase, knowing only one person in Britain, and with one job prospect. The job didn't happen and the one person ceased to be my girlfriend about 30 seconds after I arrived. Ouch. But I found work and made friends and have prospered as a result.

Moving halfway round the world changed my life, gave me chances and opportunities I would never have had back in New Zealand. By comparison, relocating to London for three months is less terrifying. If it happens, I'm ready, If it doesn't happen this year, I'll be applying again next year. If nothing else, I'm determined. Onwards!

1 comment:

cheapskate said...

Thanks David
I'm really a newbie to writing but constantly working on ideas and knowing that probably 99% of what I write won't even get seen by anyone other than myself and my poor long-suffering husband...oh and my 3 year old if it's one of my children's stories or cbeebies pitches. When you get rejected by a three year old it stings!
It's really encouraging(?) to see that even people with actual paid writing careers are in the same boat sometimes and that wound-licking still occurs.
Anyway...talking of displacement activities - must log off and do some actual work.
Thanks again, Beth.